Unblocking our Movement Chakras: Vision
Vision: Another World is Possible
This is the first of a 7-part series that will focus on the issues in our radical movements that I think need our immediate and ongoing attention. I am using the ancient eastern concept of chakras for the body as a parallel to our movement’s energy wheel. Healers believe sickness occurs when the body’s chakras are blocked or out of alignment. Likewise, the U.S. Left and our social justice movements need our collective introspection, analysis and adjustments that lead to unblocking our energy/chi points. A weakened Left, and especially the Black Left, have been unable to provide this critical guidance over the last twenty years. I do not have the space to go too deep into my thinking although I have been pondering and talking about this very subject for a few years now. I am looking to stimulate a higher level of principled discussion about how to energize and organize the social forces coming into play at this pivotal juncture in history and how we can rebuild a formidable radical movement in this country.
Where there is no vision, there is no hope.
-George Washington Carver
One thing that our radical movement is clear about: We are staunchly anti-. We are anti-capitalist, anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-heterosexist, anti-ageist, anti-patriarchal, anti, anti. We are quite articulate about the features of capitalism that we vehemently oppose. But we are generally vague about what we are for. Vision is the long-term view of what we want for our families, what we want this country to be, what it should look like in the future. Vision is what we are asking the masses of people to fight for. That vision helps to shape and define the strategy, tactics, guiding principles and other elements that move our struggle from aspirational to transformational. Vision is the first chakra that our Freedom Movement needs to blast wide open.
One of the few encouraging lights of the U.S. presidential election was the percentage of the electorate who were not just anti-capitalist but who openly claimed to be socialist or leaning towards socialism. No doubt, the Bernie Sanders campaign for president helped to elevate the S word to a higher place in public discourse. Several polls pointed out that nearly 50% of Americans favored a socialist candidate. In other polls, as high as 60% of Democratic voters had a positive view of socialism. These facts shout out organizing opportunities!
During the 1980’s the New Communist Movement attempted to bring credibility back to the term. The Occupy Movement’s delineation of the One Percenters and the 99 Percenters also helped to illuminate the class divisions for a new generation of activists and organizers.
This article is not to debate the merits or failures of socialism. My point is that folks in this country are desperately seeking alternatives to the current system of human exploitation and environmental degradation. The intensifying state violence across nationality, gender and religion is demanding a bold and just vision. president donald trump is putting the country on a neo-fascist track and daring us to stop the train.
So how should we think about vision? In 20 year increments? By city– as in what do we want Detroit to look, act like by 2037? By region—as in who controls the land and human resources in the Black Belt South? By social movements as in what environmental norms should we be re-envisioning for the next century. These are questions that don’t necessarily take unanimity of the whole. Start the conversation.
Back in the day, Black Panther Fred Hampton said, “…we’re not gonna fight capitalism with black capitalism, we’re going fight for socialism.” I was right there with the Chairman but maybe we shouldn’t start with advocating for a system at all—not even a socialist system—and instead describe how human life will be valued, protected and respected in all its facets. What would the U.S. look like if we nationalized the resources and profits for the greater good of the people, for the advancement of humanity?
Who has the authority to project a vision for our movement? Has the movement created an atmosphere of timidity about advancing ideas without permission? Who decides?
Many individual organizations in our social justice movement advance their own group’s vision and mission. This can contribute to moving a broader discussion around vision because at least these groups have looked at a vision on a micro level. Visioning on a micro level is the next logical step.
About 20 years ago, Angela Davis and others founded Critical Resistance. CR’s vision is to abolish the prison industrial complex. Since your vision drives your strategy and tactics, the group does not engage in any work that extends the “life or scope” of the PIC. For many, this vision seemed/s far-fetched and an impossible goal to reach. However, we know from the research of Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, that prior to the so-call war on drugs the U.S. government was re-thinking the utility of prisons because of the low levels of crime. One must wonder if our movement had the vision and the political analysis at that time, what would our penal system look like today. In the absence of that vision and the work needed to actualize it, abolishing the prison system as it currently exists is now markedly more challenging. Still, abolition is not impossible. It takes vision to see the end game.
The US Social Forum set off to provide a movement-building space to design “what we want our world to look like and we must start planning the path to get there,” and that it’s going to take more than movements “stand-against” all that is oppressive and exploitive. Some fifteen years later, I don’t think we’ve sharpened that discussion to move closer to a consensus vision. With thousands convening at these forums, it’s an appropriate space to have the discussion about what “another US” would look like. At some point, we can say we don’t have a perfect vision that all can unify around but we do have a vision that can be perfected as we move forward.
It is important to truly know what vision is to our movement because it presupposes that not only do we see a future, we have made a commitment to fight for that future. It’s also important because it gives breath to strategy and tactics.
In the coming months, the trump administration will throw lots of curve balls at us. Mobilization without a clear strategy could result in battle fatigue for the tens of thousands who are standing up to be counted in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality–many for the first time in their lives. When we fail to effectively and strategically organize, our movement validates the false narrative that the multi-racial working class can never win against the ruling corporate elite in this country.
Vision is sight beyond today. The future is ours to take.
Next: Unblocking the chakra of strategy.